Have you noticed your succulent starting to look a bit different? Is it growing tall and thin? Is it a bit leggy and stretched out?
If this is the case then it may mean that your succulent is suffering from something called etiolation. This basically means that your succulent is growing in inefficient light.
Sadly once the damage is done here, there is no reversal, and you may have to take action. However, by dealing with this issue, you can end up with more plants. So it’s really a no-lose situation.
To start, let us have a closer look at a stretched Crassula perforata, find out why this can happen in this specific succulent and how exactly one goes about fixing this.
What can make a succulent stretch out?
Before we get into it, we want to give you a bit of information about why this can happen. What causes a succulent to etiolate or stretch out.
The cause is a lack of sunlight, often common in succulents that are outdoors in a very shady spot. But, it is most often found in succulents that are kept inside homes, as sunlight is not as dominant inside homes.
Whenever a succulent does not receive enough light, it will try to get closer to wherever the light is coming from. This can be seen in many plants. Trees grow upwards, for this reason, you may see a small tree distort as it tried to reach around the trees around it, so it can get to a spot where it will receive sunlight.
It is a similar concept. In short, they will change the way that they grow so that they can get as much light as possible.
Much like trees, that you may see, leaning over nature trails to get to the sunlight, if your succulent is not getting enough sunlight, it will stretch itself out closer and closer to the light until it gets what it wants.
All of the energy in the plant should be doing into being the best plant that it can be, but in this case, it goes into searching for the light it needs to try and survive.
Recognizing a succulent stretching out
Recognizing a succulent that is stretching to get light, is not too difficult, your plant will let you know. It will start rather subtle with the leaves starting to point down. The plant will curl its leaves to give itself a larger leaf area for the light to hit.
Keep your eyes peeled for this, if you catch it early enough you may be able to salvage it before it gets too bad by moving the plant closer to the window.
Or maybe you could give it a treat, with a grow light, making your life and its life easier. These are special lights that used to be quite large and expensive but now there are great smaller versions that are much more affordable on the market.
If your succulent is not moved towards the light then it will slowly start to lean toward the light, in a quest for light. If it is doing this then it is using its energy to grow faster to get closer to the light but is not using energy to grow new leaves. So there is a downfall here.
What you will see in your plant is it stretching and growing taller with sider gaps between the leaves, this is also the plant stretching to access more light.
Fixing the stretch
The most unfortunate part of all this is that once the succulent is stretched, this cannot be undone. The easiest way to counter this is simply to tackle it when you first notice it and supply it with more light at this point. The sooner the better.
If you catch it early then get going, find the brightest and sunniest window in your house for your succulent. The stretched part of the plant will not ‘un-stretch’ so to speak, but there will be new growth that will be more closely stacked together.
You can also get a head start on fixing the plant by cutting down pieces that are stretched and propagating their parts. It can feel like rather drastic features for a seemingly not-so-bad situation, however, in new time it will leave you with a plethora of new succulents.
Let’s have a look into how this is done so that you can both save your plant and gain new ones all at once.
Propagating during a stretch
If you have a stretched-out succulent and you want to save it, one of the best ways to do so is simply to propagate the whole thing. It is a drastic measure when considered.
As yes, you will be chopping the plant up into pieces, this can be rather daunting but do not fear. Take a deep breath, prepare yourself and keep a steady hand. You are not hurting the plant, in fact, you are helping your succulent and are creating new plants as you do so.
What do you need to do this?
Materials you will need
- Succulent soil.
- Your stretched out succulent.
- Pruning shears.
How do propagate your stretched out succulent: Step by Step
- The first step is always the hardest. For this, you will need to start by cutting the top off of your succulent. This part is called the crown. You want to make y our cut at the bottom of the first etiolated stem part. Doing this means that you will have the whole crown, whilst still having enough stem on the cutting to be able to plant it later.
- For the second step, we will take the stem cuttings, cutting off the stem with at least two leaf pairings on it. You should strip off the bottom leaf as this will give you the stem cutting with at least a single leaf on it, and also a leaf that doesn’t have a stem. Both of these pieces can be propagated.
- You will likely have some cuttings left to take, although this does depend on the size of your succulent and how tall it had grown by this point. Continue to take as many cuttings as you can, doing the same as you did for step two. How many cuttings you take depends on how tall your succulent is, but it also depends on how far down your succulent you want to prune.
- You can cut the stem all the way down, as long as you ensure that you have one leaf pairing that remains. Placing this in a sunny spot with plenty of light will allow this last leaf pair to continue to grow. Giving your succulent a fresh start.
- Dry out the cuttings for one or two days. This is an important part of propagating any succulent, you cannot just place them in a pot and hope for the best like with some other plants.
- Once you have done this, place your cuttings on a layer of well-draining succulent soil. You can always mix in some sand or perlite in with the regular potting mix if need be. Stick the stems on the crown and the stem cuttings into the soil. Loose leave can be simply placed on top of the soil, they do not need to be placed into the soil.
- Now all you need to do is wait. Patience is a virtue. Do not pick up these pieces to see if they are making progress as this can damage any roots that are starting to grow and either prevent or postpone the propagation process.
You also do not need to provide them with any water until they are showing signs of rooting or are developing new baby succulents, after which time a gentle spritz of water every now and again will be useful to encourage the root growth toward the water and soil.
After some time the stem parts will start to slowly grow new roots, they will also start growing new crowns. Often this will be more than one.
The leaf pairs will often take longer to root, but be patient as they will produce new roots and crowns and will start to grow.
As your cuttings turn into new plants and you wait for them to start to grow, ensure they get plenty of indirect, bright light.
Once you notice a more substantial growth get them closer to the window, and they can then enjoy some more direct sunlight.
Their rotting and crowning should be noticeable within around three weeks, this will be more likely for stems/ crowns.
Leaves will take longer to root. Doing this you can now take what you know from previous experience that made the original plant leggy, and prevent it from happening to your new ones.
Stretched Echeveria succulents: How to tackle them
We know what to do for a Crassula, but what about an Echeveria succulent? It is not very difficult and is very similar to fixing up a Crassula.
You may feel bad, but cutting off the crown is not hurting the plant. Make sure that the crown has a piece of the bare stem so that you can plant it in the soil easily.
This may mean that you need to remove a few of the bottom leaves.
Off with their leaves
Now you have the crown sorted, remove all of the remaining leaves from the stem. These should not be difficult to remove. You should have one crown and a bunch of loose leaves, as well as a little stem stump.
All of these parts will be able to be propagated into new and healthy plants, so none of it goes to waste. The crown will root and then will continue to grow from there.
The leaves will eventually start to root, maybe taking some more time than the crown, but do not fret they will root, and eventually, new baby succulents will start to form on them.
The stump will take the longest, but given time, it will grow new baby plants around all sides of the stump and start growing again.
If your succulent seems leggy, you may not have it in the right place, it is crying out for more light and wants to be moved closer to the sun.
However, you may not catch on to this quick enough, and sometimes by the time you realize it, it is already too late. Do not worry though, it is not a death sentence for your plant.
Propagating a plant to save it from an unsightly and unsatisfactory leggy life, and the bonus is that you will also gain many other plants as well, your house can be filled with gorgeous succulents that you have propagated from one plant that was a bit too leggy.
It is easy enough to do and there is no downfall. So get out there and fix all those leggy, stretched out succulents and have a home filled with flourishing succulents.